BY MATTHEW HURLEY
THE conveyor belt in Gabriel Rangers is strong right now, with the club winning back-to-back Carbery U21B football titles.
Their recent triumph against Ahán Gaels (1-20 to 3-11) follows on from their 2021 success against Urhan, and these victories suggest the future is bright for Gabriels.
‘Any West Cork competition that you manage to win, no matter what grade, has benefits for the club, especially an U21 title,’ manager Pat Nolan explained.
‘It just shows we have a few players coming through so hopefully they can keep it going onto the adult team. That’s what every club is looking to do.’
Most of this season’s triumphant U21 team are eligible again next year. That suggests that the club could compete well with the bigger teams – and Gabriels are expected to take the step up to the U21A grade in 2023.
‘This particular crop of players played at a high grade all the way up. The U16s play Premier 2, the minors play in Premier 1. Bar one of this year's team, I think the rest are underage again next year. Hopefully they’ll be able to compete, and I think they will,’ Nolan said.
Defending champions Rangers impressed on their run to the Carbery U21A final. They hammered Ilen Rovers in the quarter-final, 6-22 to 1-11, and then beat Bandon 5-12 to 1-6 in the semi-final. Two statement results
‘We’ve been looking at this group of players for the last two or three years. The age profile is good, and we were hoping that they could build on last year’s U21 success. They did that and hopefully they can progress in the intermediate A football championship and U21A championship next year,’ Nolan said.
Eleven of Gabriels’ U21s are on the intermediate panel, with up to eight starting – Ryan McSweeney, Cillian O’Sullivan, David O’Regan, Darragh O’Shea, Cillian O’Brien, Lorcan O’Brien, Paddy O’Driscoll, Luka Bowen, Keith O’Driscoll, Luke Nolan and James O’Regan. It shows the underage talent is rising to the top.
Aside from the U21 success, the club’s adult team fared reasonably well in the Cork intermediate A championship.
After winning their opening two group games, they lost their last match to Kilshannig by 0-11 to 0-10. Rangers missed out on the quarter-finals as a result but seeing as Kilshannig won the championship outright, there are positives for Gabriels to build on.
‘We had a reasonably good year as it turned out in the intermediate championship. Very unlucky not to get through to a quarter-final but before that we struggled in the league,’ Nolan admitted.
‘We won four or five and lost three or four, so it was an average campaign. In the championship, we were lucky enough to beat Adrigole, the second game we won easily enough (against Ballydesmond) and we were unlucky to lose to Kilshannig.’
It was a progressive year for the club, who also had six players on the Carbery divisional panel that reached the Cork Premier SFC quarter-finals – Killian O'Brien, Ger O'Callaghan, James O'Regan, Paddy O'Driscoll, Keith O'Driscoll and Killian O'Sullivan, while Sean Kelleher and Kieran Roycroft were on the extended panel.
‘At the start of the year, the aim was to take it game by game. The year before, we only won one game. We didn’t have any aspirations to win the competition. For next year, the objective would be to get out of our group and to make the latter stages,’ Nolan concluded.